By Karen Frantz
A Fresh Meadows Catholic prep school teacher who told the media he was pressured to resign because he is transgender is being supported by droves of former students, fellow teachers and others in an online petition demanding the school apologize for its behavior.
The petition describes Mark Krolikowski — or Mr. K, as he was known by many students — as a loved and well-respected member of the St. Francis Preparatory High School staff for more than 30 years and criticizes the school administration for his dismissal.
“While we do not expect Mr. K to return to Prep, we do expect the school to apologize for its behavior and its ultimate decision to expel such a valued member from their staff,” the petition says. “In a school that preaches love, respect and acceptance, we are appalled to see that their lessons come with hateful fine print.”
St. Francis Prep is at 61-00 Francis Lewis Blvd.
The petition said Krolikowski would wear gold hoop earrings and fashionable clothing and had well-manicured nails and dyed hair. But the petition says it was never an issue among the students or parents until one student’s mother complained to the school about the teacher’s appearance in 2011.
As of Wednesday morning, nearly 2,000 people had signed the petition.
According to the New York Post, Krolikowski, a human sexuality teacher, said he was dismissed from the school in August after telling the school’s principal and assistant principal he was transgender the year before. He filed a lawsuit against the school seeking damages for emotional distress and monetary loss after attempts to resolve the case out of court were unsuccessful, the Post reported.
But Phil Semprevivo, a lawyer for St. Francis Prep, said Krolikowski was terminated for appropriate and non-discriminatory reasons.
“The school absolutely denies the allegations,” he said.
He said the lawsuit papers had just been served and the school was going to respond through the court process.
In the meantime, several former students of Krolikowski wrote on the petition that the teacher had been an inspiration to them and said they were dismayed at his treatment.
“Mr. K was one of the greatest teachers I ever had,” wrote Rachelle Gilot, of Rosedale. “He inspired me to fight and keep fighting against injustice. I won’t stand for discrimination, and Prep should be absolutely ashamed of themselves for what they’ve done.”
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.